In just 10 years of existence, the Tampa women’s soccer program has reached the pinnacle of college athletics, winning its first national championship December 1 with a 3-1 shootout victory over Franklin Pierce after 110 minutes of scoreless play.
Tampa goalkeeper Shannon Aitken was a stalwart in net for the Spartans, stopping two Franklin Pierce shots to preserve the shutout. Aitken was even better in the shootout, turning away three attempts before Franklin Pierce finally connected on its fourth.
The Spartans fared much better than their counterparts in the shootout, as Shelby Kuni, Megan Tobin and Ashley Flateland each converted penalty kicks. Flateland’s kick turned out to be the game-winner.
“I was thinking about our keeper and I didn’t want to let her down,” said Flateland. “She had played so well. It’s a good feeling, but I am more proud of my defensive play.”
The shutout was the 14th of the season for Aitken, who concluded her collegiate career with a school-record 40. Her 59 career wins is also a school record.
The championship match was the third consecutive overtime game for the Spartans, who advanced past Columbus State in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks and outlasted Grand Valley State in overtime in the national semifinals.
Franklin Pierce didn’t allow any goals in the postseason, outscoring opponents, 12-0. But the Ravens couldn’t find a way to penetrate the Spartan defense in the season finale.
“Even though it was a 0-0 tie, I thought it was an exciting game,” said Tampa head coach Gerry Lucy. “Franklin Pierce obviously provided some stiff opposition. They are a quality team and we did a good job marking their key players.”
In net for Franklin Pierce, junior Brittany Ester made four saves to notch her 13th shutout of the season. Ester didn’t allow a goal for the final 788 minutes of the season, dating back to the regular-season finale against Southern Connecticut State.
The Ravens appeared in a record seventh national title game, but failed in their bid to win for a sixth time. Franklin Pierce last won the national championship in 1999.
Franklin Pierce 1 1 — 2
Seattle Pacific 0 0 — 0
First half: FP — Taryn Welker (Jenna Giardina), 21:44.
Second half: FP — Mackenzie Bulych (Kelly Weygand), 58:55.
Shots: Franklin Pierce 7, Seattle Pacific 18. Goalkeeper saves: Franklin Pierce 8 (Brittany Ester), Seattle Pacific 4 (Jesslyn Rahm 3, Team 1). Corner kicks: Franklin Pierce 5, Seattle Pacific 5.
Tampa 2 0 — 2
Grand Valley St. 0 1 — 1
First half: T — Marissa Mohammed (Emily Stack), 17:13; Marissa Bernard, 42:52.
Second half: GVS — Ashley Elsass (Katy Tafler), 46:15.
Shots: Tampa 5, Grand Valley St. 6. Goalkeeper saves: Tampa 1 (Shannon Aitken), Grand Valley St. 2 (Kristina Nasturzio). Corner kicks: Tampa 0, Grand Valley St. 5.
Franklin Pierce 0 0 0 0 — 0
Tampa 0 0 0 0 — 0
Overtime: Tampa declared champion on penalty kicks, 3-1.
Shots: Franklin Pierce 7, Tampa 11. Goalkeeper saves: Franklin Pierce 4 (Brittany Ester), Tampa 2 (Shannon Aitken). Corner kicks: Franklin Pierce 6, Tampa 6.